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Leon Bridges @ Ortlieb’s.

May 21, 2015

LeonBridges-11Text and images by Alyssa Montgomery.

Ortlieb’s provided the perfect intimate setting for Leon Bridges and his band to take the crowd back to the days when American Bandstand ruled the airwaves and drive-in theaters were still thriving. This show last Friday was a late addition to the initial tour schedule but the opportunity to see this up-and-comer was not lost on the Philly crowd. Tickets sold out almost instantly when the show was announced.

Winner of the 2015 Grulke Prize for Developing US Act at SXSW, Bridges’ smooth, soulful crooning is enough to send shivers down your spine, especially when it’s paired with the backing of veteran musicians and backup singers, who add the perfect feminine touch to Bridges’ honeyed notes.

Bridges could not have asked for a better night to perform in Philly. Outside, the night was crisp as the line to get in wrapped around the block. Inside quickly heated up as the band got going. Bridges wore his initial nervousness as well as he wore his perfectly fitted navy suit, but any nerves quickly melted with the heat of the excited audience. He opened with his single “Coming Home” to kick the night off.

And kick the night off he did.

Following the opener were a few of his yet-to-be-released tracks, including “Brown Skin Girl,” a medium-tempo beat featuring a prominent saxophone sound with a familiar Van Morrison feel. Often pausing for a moment to introduce each song with a personal note, he slowed the pace of the night with his track “Lisa Sawyer,” dedicated to his mother. He was quick to follow it with another up-beat song about his grandmother.

Bridges and his band managed to perfectly blend the styles of Van Morrison, Sam Cooke and old school rock ‘n’ roll, creating a sound that could only come from Texas, and to be honest, it just makes you want to move.

The crowd had no trouble getting swept up in Bridges’ ‘50s nostalgia and joined him in his rhythmic movements throughout the entire set. The opening saxophone notes of “Better Man” poured over the audience and, judging by the reaction, it was the song they had come to hear.

Closing out the show with his most recent release, “River,” Bridges left everyone pleasantly surprised that such a simple, smooth-as-silk showcase could come from such a young performer.

After the show, with an hour left until closing time, the crowd thinned and the performers joined the remaining stragglers for a few drinks. Despite their recent foray into the limelight, the bandmates still carried that laid-back Southern charm. The group came together less than year ago in Fort Worth, Texas, meeting through mutual friends at a bar. They cut this first record in an old warehouse a few months after meeting. Bridges recently signed with Columbia Records and has been playing a smattering of shows in anticipation of the full album release.

From here, Bridges and his band are heading across the pond to perform sold out shows in London, Paris and Germany. Missed Bridges this time around? Don’t worry — his album, Coming Home, drops June 23 and another US tour is planned for this fall.


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